July 2007

Rotation change

Nothing of major significance to report. The team worked out at Dodger Stadium today and is currently en route to San Francisco. Billingsley starts tomorrow with Penny on Saturday and Brett Tomko now starting on Sunday. Derek Lowe moves to Monday and Mark Hendrickson on Tuesday.

Otherwise, it’s a quiet day in Dodgerland. Grady’s third grandchild was born earlier today, so our congratulations go out to him and his family on the birth of Jace Dalton Little.

The All-Star Break

The actual break starts today for those of us up north and despite the NL’s loss yesterday, it was actually a very good game. I guess that means we’ll have to play Game 7 of the World Series in Anaheim, Boston or Cleveland (one can only hope).

I had the honor after the game to give Russell Martin his All-Star ring and while I wasn’t down on one knee, it was the first time I’ve handed over a ring since I got engaged three years ago. Suffice to say, it was an awkward but funny moment. He really seemed to enjoy himself, as did Saito and Penny. All three of them stayed up here for the week, as did Jaime Jarrin and Stan Conte, and the team will meet up with all of us tomorrow night after working out at Dodger Stadium.

Penny’s got his family in town and I think they headed to Alcatraz today. Saito’s family flew home today to Japan after spending a few days here in San Fran and Russell’s dad was here to enjoy all the festivities.

Now it’s a short break until Friday’s opener, which should be the start of a fun series. If I can think of anything interesting to post tomorrow, I certainly will. If not, my apologies in advance.

All-Star Tuesday

It’s been a nice 24 hours since the last post, as the Home Run Derby seemed to keep the masses entertained here and then a bunch of us headed over to the All-Star gala nearby. I’ve run into several former Dodgers over the last few days, including Eric Karros, who is working for FOX and Candy Maldonado, who is part of ESPN Deportes’ crew here. There’s never a shortage of ex-Dodgers around and here in San Francisco, everyone gets booed every time they step into public.

During BP yesterday, Russell got booed mercilessly, which he loved. He also had to hit right after Barry Bonds, which is a pretty tough act to follow. Then this morning, we helped set up the parade down Embarcadero with the players, as Saito and his wife and two daughters were in the same vehicle as Russ. According to Russ, they got booed the entire way down the street, which made me laugh.

Brad Penny was with his parents, brother and his girlfriend and said he got the same "royal" treatment here in San Francisco.

By the time we all got here for batting practice, the gates were open and fans were filling in. Eventually the NL took a team photo and it was cool seeing Saito and Barry Bonds interact despite the language barrier. I think Penny served as the interpreter, but his Japanese is about as good as Barry’s. Saito and Barry even hugged in front of the hostile crowd, which I’m sure got them all riled up.

Overall, it’s a hectic 72 hours for these guys, but I have a feeling that for first-timers like Russ and Saito, they’re really enjoying the experience. And for Penny, who was here last year, he can actually step back a little and enjoy it rather than the sensory overload that comes with the first time at an event like this.

The game starts in about an hour and a half and my spot is in the auxiliary press box.  Brad told me he’s going to pitch the second inning and only go one, so I guess he and Peavy will start out for an inning apiece and then hand it over to the other guys. Hopefully Sammy gets in te game late, though I’d imagine if the NL has a small, it’ll be that guy down the freeway with 500 saves who gets the ball.

All-Star Workout Day

I’m here at the Westin St. Francis, which is the hub for most of what’s going on this week at the All-Star Game. We had the press conference a little where they announced the starting pitcher and it’s Jake Peavy. Brad is fine with that, of course, but he was certainly deserving, too.  It seems like Tony LaRussa also wanted Jake to experience the same things Brad did last year, which is fair. They’re both worthy of the honor.

There was also an hour-long media availability for all the other players here so our three guys got to talk to probably 500 media members in a giant room. Just picture a huge ballroom with tables around the outside of it and each player from the NL (32 of them) sitting at each table that’s perched up on a platform with media surrounding them. The two biggest media contingents for the NL were Barry Bonds (shocker!) and Takashi Saito (SHOCKER!). There is a ton of Japanese media here and many of them already cover Ichiro or Okajima, but never get to see Sammy. So today, since the AL and NL are separate, Saito must’ve had 50 reporters around him the entire time. Hard to imagine what that’s like when you usually only have about five or six following you around each day.

After the media availability, the players, families and schmoes like me were upstairs in a private area and Ichiro and Saito got a chance to catch up. I didn’t understand a word they were saying, but it was obvious when they ran into each other the mutual respect they show for one another, which is an incredible thing about the Japanese culture.

Russell also has a lot of media from his home country, Canada. It’s certainly not like Japan, but at least four TV stations and reporters from around the U.S. were catching up with him and Brad. This truly is a global game, that’s for sure.

On a sad note, one reporter actually had a seizure during all of this and while I don’t know him personally, I certainly hope he gets better quickly.

Now it’s off to the ballpark for NL batting practice and other types of media availability. It will be a little weird being in the Giants home clubhouse, which is the NL’s home for this week. It’s a lot bigger than the visitor’s clubhouse and the last time I was in there was the 2002 World Series when I covered the Giants for one season for MLB.com.

Be sure to catch the home run derby tonight and keep checking in at dodgers.com, as there will be plenty of stories that are specific to our players, including Chin-lung Hu, who won the MVP of the Future’s Game yesterday.

Ramon Martinez's back

You can either read the apostrophe above as a discussion about his back or that he "is" back. Either way, you’re right, and he’s in the lineup today. D.J. Houlton was optioned to Triple-A to make room for him. Here’s the lineup for the first-half finale:

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Martin, C

Gonzo, LF

Nomar, 3B

Loney, 1B

Kemp, RF

Martinez, 2B

Hendrickson, P

Tonight's game

Here’s the lineup for tonight. I’m heading downstairs to help get Brad Penny and Rick Honeycutt for an upcoming commercial you’ll see during Dodger broadcasts, so be on the lookout.

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Martin, C

Gonzalez, LF

Loney, 1B

Nomar, 3B

Ethier, RF

Abreu, 2B

Lowe, P

I’ve also been putting notes on the blog a lot lately so if you’d prefer to get that elsewhere, please post comments to that end. If not, I’ll keep doing it, as it’s a good way to send this info to the public, even if it makes each post a little longer.

SWINGIN’ IT – Since June 15 when Bill Mueller took over as hitting coach, the Dodgers are batting .292 (222-for-759), tying them with Houston for the second-highest average in the National League during that span behind Colorado (.308). The club’s .364 on-base percentage during that period is third-best in the NL behind the Rockies (.384) and Astros (.368).

PITCHING IN – Over the last 12 games, Dodger pitchers are hitting .375 (9-for-24), raising the staff’s batting average to .175 (25-for-143), the second-best mark in the NL behind the Mets (.180).

PUT HIM ON THE BOARD – Former Dodger outfielder and current radio broadcaster Rick Monday has been named to the Board of Directors of the Citizens Flag Alliance. Last season, at the invitation of the U.S. Congress, Monday and his wife, Barbaralee were in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 30th anniversary of an attempted flag burning at Dodger Stadium that was thwarted by the then-Chicago Cub outfielder.

SHOEMAKER SETS RECORD – The Double-A Jacksonville manager John Shoemaker piloted the Suns to his 303rd victory yesterday, surpassing the franchise record set by Tommy Thompson from 1985-88. Shoemaker, who has been a member of the Dodgers’ minor league system since 1977, has led the Suns to two Southern League championships and has twice earned Manager of the Year honors. In the Suns’ win yesterday, Chin-lung Hu had three hits and six RBI.

DID YOU KNOW?: It took a Dodger Stadium parking lot attendant to help launch the professional baseball career of Tommy Hutton, today a Marlins broadcaster. When Dodger scout Tommy Lasorda tried to enter the main parking lot one afternoon in 1964, he was stopped because he didn’t have a pass. The attendant agreed to let Lasorda into the parking lot if he scouted his friend Hutton, a senior first baseman at nearby South Pasadena High School. Lasorda signed Hutton, who spent seven years in the Dodger system, including brief Major League appearances in 1966 and 1969. Hutton appeared in 952 career games with the Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, Montreal Expos and Philadelphia Phillies. His father, George Hutton, was a longtime Dodger Stadium usher who can be seen on videotape stationed behind home plate in the old dugout seats when Kirk Gibson hit his pinch-hit home run in the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics.

SNUBBED? – Derek Lowe has pitched well enough to earn All-Star honors this season, as his 2.98 ERA is sixth in the NL, which is better than Cole Hamels (3.72), Roy Oswalt (3.52) and Ben Sheets (3.41), each of whom were named All-Stars. Lowe is tied for the Major League lead in complete games (3) and is fourth in the NL in innings pitched.

AT THE BOX OFFICE – The Dodgers’ paid attendance last night was 51,050, the 17th time this season that the attendance has topped the 50,000 mark. In addition, the team passed the two million mark in attendance for the 34th consecutive season, a Major League Baseball record. The last time the Dodgers didn’t get two million fans out to Chavez Ravine was in 1972 when the team finished in third place at 85-70.

HOME BOX OFFICE – The upcoming HBO special “Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush” examines the heyday and impact of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1957 in a two-part sports documentary that debuts this Wednesday, July 11. From Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947 to the team’s move to Los Angeles at the end of the 1957 season, the show examines how the franchise has changed the landscape of sports.

Lineup

For those who want a chance to meet James Loney and Matt Kemp, they’ll be signing autographs tomorrow from 12 – 1. Loney will be at a store in Los Angeles at 2333 Sepulveda Blvd. and Kemp will be at one in Torrance at 18201 Hawthorne Blvd.

And, there are still tickets left for tonight for those who want to come down and get their Furcal bobblehead doll. No collection is complete without it!

Here’s the lineup for tonight followed by some notes to whet your appetite:

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Martin, C

Kent, 2B

Gonzo, LF

Nomar, 1B (back at first for the day)

Kemp, RF

Abreu, 3B

Billingsley, P

FURCAL TAKES ON BOBBLE HEAD CURSE – On April 26, Nomar Garciaparra went 1-for-5 to become just the second Dodger player to get a hit on his bobblehead night, joining Cesar Izturis who went 2-for-4 on June 1, 2005. Of the four previous games in which a Dodger played on his bobble head night, those players were a combined 0-for-11, as Fred McGriff went 0-for-4 on Sept. 12, 2003, Shawn Green went 0-for-3 on July 18, 2002 and Paul Lo Duca went 0-for-4 on May 31, 2002. Combined, all Dodger players have gone 3-for-20 when honored with a bobblehead.

LEAGUE LEADERS – The Dodgers have 48 victories this season, tying them with the Brewers and Padres for the most in the National League.

PAYING THE BILLS – Since joining the starting rotation, Chad Billingsley has held opposing hitters to a .167 average (9-for-54). That is the lowest opponents’ average in baseball among all pitchers with three or more starts.   Source: STATS, LLC

HOME GROWN DODGERS – Of the 31 players on the 25-man roster and the disabled list, 10 were drafted and/or signed by the Dodgers (Tony Abreu, Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Kemp, Hong-Chih Kuo, James Loney, Russell Martin, Jason Repko, Takashi Saito and Eric Stults), while three others were drafted in another organization but reached the Majors with the Dodgers (Yhency Brazoban, Andre Ethier and D.J. Houlton). That’s 42 percent (13 of 31) “homegrown” Dodgers on the current club. At this time last season, it was 25 percent (9 of 36); at this time in 2005 it was 24 percent (8 of 33) and at this time in 2004 it was 31 percent (9 of 29).

BEFORE THE BREAK – Over the last 50 years, only 20 Dodger pitchers have won 10 or more games before the All-Star Break including Brad Penny, who has now done it in consecutive seasons. Of those 20 pitchers who have accomplished the feat a total of 46 times, only two have done it while losing one game or less – Penny and Doug Rau, who went 11-1 in 1977.

AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM – On this date in 1979, the Dodgers purchased the contract of Fernando Valenzuela from Puebla in the Mexican League and sent him to Single-A Lodi. The following year, he reached the Major Leagues and his career included a Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year Award and a post-playing career as a Dodger Spanish-language broadcaster on ESPN Deportes 1330.

THAT “OTHER” LEFT-HANDER – On this date in 1955, Sandy Koufax made his first Major League start and did not earn a decision against the Pirates. He gave up three hits, eight walks and struck out four in 4.2 innings of work.

ON THE WHITE HOUSE LAWN – On Sunday, July 15, President George W. Bush will host a White House tee ball game in honor of Jackie Robinson’s 60th anniversary of breaking the color barrier, it was announced today. The game will host teams from the Inner-City Little League of Brooklyn, NY and the Wrigley Little League of Los Angeles, CA, the two home cities of Robinson’s team, the Dodgers.  The Dodgers will be represented by Special Advisor to the Chairman Tommy Lasorda, Director of Community Affairs Don Newcombe and Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Howard Sunkin. This will be the 17th tee ball game at the White House and it will bring together some of Robinson’s original teammates and other notable baseball icons.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME – The Dodgers have a 25-18 record at Dodger Stadium, the second-best home winning percentage (.581) in the National League behind the Brewers (.698). Among the Dodgers batters faring better at home than on the road are Rafael Furcal (.313 to .231), Nomar Garciaparra (.324 to .224) and Olmedo Saenz (.323 to .114). 

RUNNIN’ RUSS – Russell Martin has 16 stolen bases, an L.A. Dodger record and two shy of the single-season franchise mark set by Con Daily in 1892 (18). The only Major League catchers to steal more bases before the break since 1957 were Kansas City’s John Wathan (26 in 1982), Pittsburgh’s Jason Kendall (22 in 1999), Texas’ Ivan Rodriguez (17 in 1999) and Wathan (17 in 1983).

MEMORIES – On this date in 1933, the first All-Star Game was played at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The Dodger All-Stars were Tony Cuccinello (2B) and Max Carey, who was a coach.

SECOND CITY – The Dodgers have posted a 45-31 record this season when Jeff Kent starts at second base and a 3-7 mark when he does not. Kent is tied for the team lead with 10 homers and tied for second with 40 RBI, giving him 1,420 in his career, two shy of Jim Bottomley for 60th place all-time. He also has 521 career doubles, one behind Ed Delahanty for 34th place all-time.

Tonight's lineup

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Martin, C

Kent, 2B

Gonzo, LF

Nomar, 3B

Loney, 1B

Ethier, RF

Penny, P

Happy Fourth of July

I’m guessing it’ll be a slow day on the blog, with everyone enjoying time away from the office and out celebrating our Independence.

Randy Wolf’s left shoulder is causing him some trouble, so he’s going to go on the disabled list and Eric Stults has been recalled from Vegas to replace him on the roster.

Here’s today’s lineup followed by Fourth of July fun…

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Martin, C

Kent, 2B

Loney, 1B

Nomar, 3B

Kemp, RF

Ethier, LF

Hendrickson, P

ENJOYING THEIR INDEPENDENCE – In their 117-year history, the Dodgers have played 167 games on July 4 and have posted an 85-80-2 record in those games, including a 24-25 mark since moving to Los Angeles in 1958. The tradition of playing a double header on Independence Day was a regular one until 1960, when L.A. started playing just once on the Fourth of July.  During one particularly fruitful stretch, the Dodgers posted a 17-4 record on July 4 from 1945-1956. Last year, the Dodgers defeated the Diamondbacks, 11-3 on Independence Day. A fireworks show compliments of the Auto Club of Southern California will follow tonight’s game.

BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY – It’s been very rare for any player born on Independence Day to play for the Dodgers. Among the few is Babe Birrer (1929) who pitched in 16 games for the 1958 Dodgers in their first season in LA.

TRADED ON THE FOURTH OF JULY – The only trade the L.A. Dodgers have made on Independence Day was in 1998 when the team acquired Jeff Shaw from the Reds in exchange for Paul Konerko and Dennis Reyes.

175 Million Strong

Tonight we are also celebrating 175 million fans attending a Dodger game since 1901, which is an amazing number if you think about it. Consider the following:

- Odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 175 million
- According to the UN, 175 million people live outside their country of birth
- Americans eat 175 million eggs every year
- Consumers purchase more than 175 million roses for Valentine’s Day
- 175 million Americans are licensed to drive
- The population of Brazil is 175 million
- McDonald’s has 175 million visitors per week
- Dinosaurs roamed the earth for 175 million years
- There are 175 million internet users in the U.S.
- 175 million people worldwide speak French
- 175 million Americans have cell phones
- The most expensive comedy ever made is recent summer release “Evan Almighty” at $175 million
- There are 175 million profiles on Myspace.com

The moral of the story: don’t take this number lightly. You guys deserve to be commended for supporting this team through thick and thin and there are some great surprises in store tonight for those who are here.

For tomorrow’s Fourth of July game, as you can imagine we’ll be completely sold out and therefore, the parking lots are going to be very full, since we have to close one of the lots for the fireworks display. Because of that, we’re suggesting that you arrive early, as parking gates open at 4:10 for the 6:10 game and try to carpool with four or more to a car.

In addition, specially discounted $5 remote parking will be available in Lots 13 and 14 which are located on Stadium Way next to the Fire Academy Training Center.

Thanks for your cooperation and hope to see you out here tomorrow night.

Tonight, the team is trying to get over the hump…it’s the sixth time the team has been 11 games over .500 but yet to be 12 games over.

Here’s the lineup:

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Loney, 1B

Kent, 2B

Gonzo, LF

Kemp, RF

Betemit, 3B

Lieberthal, C

Wolf, P

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